Animal, nature, math

For generations, many of us have believed that humans are the only species capable of intelligent reasoning and/or understanding of numbers and arithmetic. But relatively recent researches have shown that we have only been narrow-minded in our thinking and that, contrary to what we thought, several animals do have the ability to understand numbers and count objects. This result, obviously, may come as a surprise to many people because our human ego has allowed us to bask in that notion of thought for far too long.

In the late 19th century, a German mathematical teacher, Wilhelm von Osten, began a study to teach his horse, Clever Hans, mathematics. The result indicated that the horse showed a significant ability to do certain mathematical tasks. The horse gave its answers to very rudimentary math questions by stamping its hoof. However, with time, it was discovered, by the psychologist Oskar Pfungst, that the horse merely responded to non-verbal cues from its questioner, and, unfortunately, wasn’t able to count or do mathematics at all.

The teacher did not achieve his goal with the horse, however, the study did spur interests in the field, and today it has resulted in a fact that there are indeed animals who cannot only count but also perform some mathematical tasks.

Some of the animals from the results, which are capable of doing math, will leave one amazed! Here is a perfunctory review of some of these animals




1. Crows

CrowsCrows are very intelligent, and they have proven to have the ability to do many things that require a lot of brain work, including recognizing a human face, planning for the future, and among many other things. Recently, researches have shown that they can actually count. Crows have human-like neurons, which are also called ‘number neurons.’ Crows, via these neurons, through several tests, have shown that they are capable of identifying numbers and shapes with about 75% accuracy.


2. Pigeons

PigeonPigeons have demonstrated that they are capable of learning abstracts rules that involves numbers. According to a research conducted by Damian Scarf of the University of Otago, New Zealand, pigeons, after about a year of training, learned rules about numbers–The pigeons could peck images on a screen from lower to higher numbers.


3. Parrots

ParrotParrots are known to be very smart, in fact, they are believed to be as smart as a human child. Their smartness also extends to mathematical abilities and numerical concepts. Alex, the African Parrot, was an important figure in revealing just how smart parrots.



4. Rhesus Monkey

Rhesus monkeyA popular test conducted at Duke University in 2007, by Elizabeth Brannon, presented a math challenge to fourteen college students and two rhesus monkeys. The students and the monkeys were made to take a number test. The students, at the end of the test, had 94% of the correct answers of the questions while the monkeys had 76% correct. Also, another research by Jessica Cantlon revealed that rhesus monkeys can be quicker than humans when tested with some basic math problem. Though fascinating, this result should not indicate that the movie, The Planet of the Apes, could become a reality.


5. Ants

AntsThis may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but ants can actually do math, and their math is pretty complex. Research has revealed that ants use math to find the fastest route to their destination, which may not really be the shortest route, just like a global positioning system (GPS) would. This means that ants try to minimize their walking time instead of the distance traveled. Ants, by consciously trying to reduce all possible routes to the fastest one, are actually practicing the application of Fermat’s principle of least time.


6. Lions

LionsMost of us know that lions are territorial animals. whenever they want to attack other lions or animals, they, like some intelligent humans, would first weigh their chances of victory mathematically. This basic math understanding for lions means they don’t go into battles they are not certain to win.

Lions, according to research, would play a simulated roaring sounds of the other group of lions they want to attack, and if the attackers outnumber the lions roaring, they would go ahead, but if the roaring lions outnumber the attackers, they would retreat.


7. Frogs

FrogYes, frogs have the ability to do basic math, which they use to identify a compatible partner. I bet that this may come as a surprise to many, but frogs can count. They count the number of pulses; they assess the duration and volume of the croaks, for example, to determine who to mate with.


8. Chicks

ChicksChicks demonstrate the ability to count right from a very young age—as early 3 days old. Young chicks also demonstrate the ability to distinguish between quantities they’ve been shown, even after the order has been manipulated.





9. Guppies

GuppyYou definitely didn’t see this coming, but guppies can count too. They count to keep themselves safe in the water. A 2012 research revealed that individual guppies that were placed in a pound with different groups carefully counted each group and joined the largest group. It may sound random, but this was done severally with different group sizes and the results were the same.


10. Bees

BeeBees are very famous for the numerous things they do, especially in our survival. But one thing they are not famous for is their ability to count and perform some mathematical tricks. Bees travel long distances in other to find food, and no matter what, they always make their way back to their hive. According to a study done by the State University of New York, it was revealed that the bees experimented on counted landmarks they passed through. If a landmark, at any point, changes, the bees would find it difficult to get back to their hives.



These animals, based on studies, cannot go beyond basic math, however, these discoveries show the immense possibilities that they possess in this regards.

The African Grey Parrot, who was trained for many years, showed unbelievable abilities before it died at the age of thirty.
Smarter parrots may be discovered if researchers can improve on where they stopped with the parrot.

And also, the fact that animals as small as bees, and ants can do rudimentary arithmetic may indicate that relative bigger and complex non-human animals may also be very smart–capable of doing more complex math. So get off your high horse humans, we may not be as special as we think with regards to solving math problems.


Image Reference
flickr; wikimedia


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